Guest Blog: Summer Service Camp 2014

By Sherley Guerrier

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HOB Staff/Project Leaders Misty, Luis, Sherley, Melinda & Natalie at Miramar Community Garden

HandsOn Broward held their third annual Summer Service Camp Monday, July 7th – Friday, July 11th, 2014. 38 youth volunteers, ages 13-17, were engaged in meaningful service projects throughout the week.

Summer Service Camp sites included:

  • Children’s Harbor: Foster care homes where siblings are kept together and teen mothers live with their children
  • Broward Emergency Operations Center: Center for disaster preparedness and response
  • ARC Broward: Electronics recycling facility
  • North East Focal Point: Senior activities center
  • Miramar Community Garden: Micro farming system

As a former youth volunteer, I have gone through similar programs with HandsOn Broward. During Summer Camp this year, I had the opportunity to serve as a Project Leader. It was definitely interesting to serve from a different perspective, especially since I was in their shoes not too long ago.

I remembered some of the campers from previous youth programs we were in together, but there were also new faces in the group. My initial thoughts were, “This is going to be a long week.” Every evening I got home I was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion. I was witnessing youth become world changers each day. The campers switched from thoughts of “Why am I here?” to “I can’t wait until tomorrow!”

On Monday we went to Children’s Harbor. We had several projects in line for that day, which included building wood covers for storage under the pavilion and house cleaning. We also had time to decorate some treats and cards of caring for the kids to come home to after their summer activities.

On Tuesday, the campers learned all about disaster preparedness. We started out the day with a tour of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where campers learned what happens in Broward County before, during and after a disaster. After the tour, campers headed back to home base and were involved with conducting hurricane preparedness assessments for local senior citizens. First, the students were prepared through a SAFE (Safety Assessments for Emergencies) Training, which showed them exactly what to look for when they examined the homes, and how to conduct the assessments. They also helped assemble disaster preparedness kits that they brought with them to the seniors’ homes. They also participated in a Hands-Only CPR training led by the American Red Cross.

On Wednesday, we went to ARC Broward where the campers split up into groups and visited four stations of the warehouse. The stations included testing donated electronics, shredding hard drives, disassembling computers, and sorting electronics for recycling. This project gave campers a chance to try something new while having a lot of fun and making a difference.

Our next destination was North East Focal Point Senior Center on Thursday. The campers participated in a wide variety of activities with the seniors, including Bingo, Tai Chi, gardening, dancing & singing, providing manicures, getting schooled in dominoes, and, most importantly, making the seniors smile by being their companions for the day.

Friday’s focus was on the environment at the Miramar Community Garden. The campers split into two teams – one group constructed benches for the garden, and the other created garden grids in the garden boxes. The campers ended our series of service projects with accomplished smiles as they carried the last finished bench to its new home under the big tree at the garden.

Witnessing these youth volunteers participate in service over the course of the five days was inspiring. Exposing students to different impact areas can ignite a passion to change their community for the better. The youth of this generation may not realize they have untapped potential that can be used to ultimately change this world. Together, this generation could change the direction of the world’s future politically, economically, and socially. Young people are capable. I strongly believe in the power of youth.

I encourage everyone to try volunteering through HandsOn Broward. If you have a child who wants to get involved in next year’s Summer Service Camp, or any other youth programs with HandsOn Broward, you can reach out to Melissa Sutliff, Director of Youth Programs, at Melissa@HandsOnBroward.org. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where they update the volunteer community with the latest news.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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July Volunteer Spotlight: Tamika Mallard

By Sherley Guerrier

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This month’s Volunteer Spotlight goes to Tamika Mallard. This individual’s service-spirited energy has been a great contribution to HandsOn Broward as a volunteer. Tamika has always had a passion for helping others, which encouraged her to look for volunteer opportunities in Broward County. After finding HandsOn Broward while searching online, Tamika said, “I thought ‘Wow, since I live in Broward County, this would be a great opportunity for me to give back to my community.’”

Through HandsOn Broward, Tamika has been able to volunteer at several different partner agencies, including the Jubilee Center of South Broward. “I have always wanted to assist in feeding the homeless, helping raise funds for a good cause, and help people in distress. While volunteering with HandsOn Broward, I was able to do all of that and more,” she said. “Feeding the homeless at the Jubilee Center was a great experience to work as a team in a nice atmosphere with respect and appreciation for one another. Just to know you are making a difference in the lives of others by helping them is an awesome feeling.”

Tamika has also spent her time volunteering with HOPE Outreach Center. “HOPE Outreach Center gave me a great opportunity to help others that were not able to help themselves. Some clients may not be able to read, speak or understand how to apply for the assistance needed for food, medical, disability or other allowances needed for survival. At the center, we assist clients in every capacity to further enhance their quality of life.”

Tamika only has positive things to say about the partner agencies she volunteers with. She also enjoys volunteering with the Broward Outreach Center in Pompano. “Broward Outreach is also a very well organized program that is making a difference to help enhance the lives of others that are transitioning to their own independence. This was a great opportunity to work as a team in a clean and nurturing environment. It was great to see that we have such wonderful programs out there available to those in need. It would be advantageous for the community to know more about these programs that are available to them,” she said.

Many would agree that volunteering is great not only in the professional realm, but personally as well. Tamika said, “Getting involved with your community helps individuals to learn more about their community. Volunteers have a huge impact on the success and continuance of the many programs that are offered to the community. As a volunteer, helping others can be a fulfilling feeling of accomplishment. By helping the community, the volunteer will also gain experience, training and knowledge in a variety of programs. The skills learned can help in both your personal and professional lives.”

Tamika has been self-driven to make a difference in her community. By immersing herself in the volunteer world she is able to do what she is passionate about. “I love working with people that have the same mindset. This also helps improve my skills working as a team player and for a good cause. There is no judgment, just caring hearts for those who cannot help themselves. I enjoy meeting people and listening to their stories. I also appreciate the training and skills you get when you do volunteer for HandsOn Broward,” Tamika said.

If anyone is concerned with any conflicts arising, Tamika suggests not giving up. “When you become a volunteer there are many organizations that are [partners] of HandsOn Broward where you can serve the community. If by chance you are not happy with your first experience volunteering, do not give up. There are many other opportunities,” Tamika said.

When asked about any last comments, Tamika was sure to highlight the most important thing that HandsOn Broward stands for, which is service. “I would recommend HandsOn Broward to everyone I know that would like to become a volunteer, because they are great at what they do. HandsOn Broward gives many opportunities to serve within the community,” Tamika said.

“Helping people in any type of distress has always been a passion of mine. The motivation for me is that just by volunteering your time you can make a difference in the lives of others. It is awesome to be able to help people by enhancing their lives in a variety of capacities. Some people have no food, no money and some have no home. If one or two hours can help to change a person’s life for the better, I feel it would be a shame not to. By helping others you also help enhance your community,” Tamika said.

Thank you for all you do to make Broward County a better place, Tamika!